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Twitter Non-compliant With IT Rules, Failed to Appoint Nodal Officers: Govt Tells RS

The Delhi High Court Wednesday expressed displeasure over Twitter Inc appointing a contingent worker as Chief Compliance Officer (CCO).

The Delhi High Court Wednesday expressed displeasure over Twitter Inc appointing a contingent worker as Chief Compliance Officer (CCO).

The IT rules mandate the appointments for all major social media intermediaries as per the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules 2021 notified on February 25, 2021.

The Centre has said that social media giant Twitter has failed to comply with the new Information Technology (IT) rules as it did not appoint a chief compliance officer, a nodal contact person and a resident grievance officer on May 26. The IT rules mandate the appointments for all major social media intermediaries as per the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules 2021 notified on February 25, 2021.

“On 26th May 2021, Twitter was non-compliant as it failed to appoint Chief Compliance Officer, Nodal Contact Person and a Resident Grievance Office as mandated in the Rules," MoS MeitY Rajeev Chandrashekhar told Rajya Sabha.

The Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Ethics Code) Rules, 2021 seek to regulate dissemination and publication of content in cyber space, including social media platforms, and were notified in February by the central government.

“Major Significant Social Media Intermediaries incl Facebook, Google (Youtube), Twitter, LinkedIn, WhatsApp, Sharechat, Telegram, Koo, MyGov etc., have informed this Ministry about their commitment to comply and/or compliance with the above said Rules," he said.

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“Twitter is a Significant Social Media Intermediary (SSMI)as per Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules 2021 notified on 25th Feb 2021. The addl due diligence mandated for SSMIs have become effective from 26th May 2021," he told the Upper House.

“MeitY does not keep a register of intermediaries including social media platforms as the same is not mandated in the IT Act or the Rules therein. MeitY will become aware of any non-compliance as and when it is reported by a user," Chandrashekhar further said.

The Delhi High Court Wednesday expressed displeasure over Twitter Inc appointing a contingent worker as Chief Compliance Officer (CCO) and said the microblogging platform was non-compliant with the new Information Technology (IT) Rules. Justice Rekha Palli noted that while the rules mandated appointment of a key managerial person or a senior employee as CCO, Twitter disclosed in its affidavit that it had appointed a contingent worker through a third party contractor.

He (CCO) is categorical (in his affidavit) that he is not an employee. This itself is in the teeth of the rule. There has to be some seriousness about the rule. Some sanctity has to be given, the court remarked. The court added that it had reservations with respect to the usage of the term contingent worker by Twitter especially when it was not known who the third party contractor was.

“What is this contingent worker? I don’t know what it would mean. I have a problem with the word. Contingent then third party contractor! What is this? I am not happy with the affidavit," the judge told Twitter. The court said Twitter’s affidavit was unacceptable and asked it to comply with the rules whole-heartedly.

“File a better affidavit. This is not acceptable. I’m giving you a long rope but don’t expect the court to do it on and on. Disclose the name of the third party contractor and explain contingent," the court said as it granted a week’s time to Twitter to file the new affidavit.

The court further directed Twitter to not only disclose all the details pertaining to the appointment of the CCO as well as the Resident Grievance Officer (RGO) but also clarify as to why a Nodal Contact Person had not been appointed yet and by when the position will be filled.

Twitter Inc filed an affidavit before the court, informing that it has appointed a resident of India as CCO, effective July 6. Senior advocate Sajan Poovayya, representing Twitter, stated that while the CCO was a contingent worker, appointed via third party contractor, he has undertaken to perform all functions and responsibilities under the IT Rules. Usage of the term contingent worker was on account of structure of employment and the fact that Twitter Inc did not have a liaison office in India, Poovayya said as he added that the platform would no longer appoint interim officers to the posts.

It was reiterated that the process for establishing a liaison office on ongoing. The person appointed as CCO would also act as the RGO, effective July 7, Poovayya said.

In the affidavit, Twitter has stated that while one Vinay Prakash has been appointed to the two positions as contingent worker via third party contractor, it has posted publicly a job announcement for CCO and RGO as direct employee and that it will make endeavour in good faith to make an offer of employment to a qualified candidate who is resident in India to fill this position in 8 weeks. Poovayya further submitted that the Nodal Contact Person was yet to be appointed and sought two weeks from the court for the appointment.

Twice before, on July 6 and July 8, the court had granted time to Twitter to file an affidavit to show compliance with the IT Rules. The Centre had said in its affidavit that Twitter failed to comply with India’s new IT Rules, which could lead to its losing immunity conferred under the IT Act.

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first published:July 29, 2021, 16:45 IST